Jon VanderWal’s look was amusing, priceless

Early in the second half of Wednesday night’s men’s basketball game at the BanJo, Marietta College sophomore Tim Kreeger made a highlight film shot in the paint.

The 6-foot-7 pivot player — who is right-handed — left-handed about a 10-foot hook off the glass to give the Pioneers a 66-50 advantage over Otterbein University.

The look on MC head coach Jon VanderWal’s face was priceless. It seemed to say, “No! No! Yes!”

Curt Plummer, who was sitting to my left on press row, said, “I wonder if he (Kreeger) called it (the bank shot)?”

I laughed and replied facetiously, “I think so.”

But I knew, of course, that he hadn’t — not in the heat of action.

Marietta, 10th-ranked in the D3hoops.com Top 25 poll with a 16-2 overall record and 10-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, then went on to defeat Otterbein rather handily, 96-67. No surprise there as the Pioneers have beaten the Cardinals 12 straight times, now. Back in November in the second game of the 2018-19 campaign in Westerville, MC claimed a 98-66 decision.

Of the 16 Marietta cagers who played against OU, 14 scored, and 11 had at least one triple.

“It’s great to get everybody in the game,” VanderWal said, “and hopefully we can build off it.”

OAC first-place Marietta (tied with Capital University) is scheduled to host John Carroll University in another league matchup at 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Pioneers figure to be tested a little bit more against the Blue Streaks, the top pick in an OAC preseason poll.

MC beat JCU, 82-75, in a Dec. 1 meeting in University Heights.

And, while the Streaks (8-10, 4-7) are kind of having a subpar winter on the hardwood, they are coming off an impressive 82-69 triumph over second-place University of Mount Union (14-4, 8-3) Wednesday evening.

VanderWal knows John Carroll is a dangerous team no-matter-what and that the Pioneers will have to bring their “A” game to the court.

“This is a big game,” MC senior Kyle Dixon said.

But put yourselves in the Blue Streaks’ shoes. How in the world are they going to defend the Pioneers, who have so many weapons in their arsenal? Dixon leads the team, averaging 11.3 points per game. He also is 17 points shy of a career milestone 1,000. (Dixon had a team-high 17 vs. Otterbein. So, he could possibly reach the milestone against John Carroll.)

“What’s crazy is that we’re the leading scoring team in the OAC, and our leading scorer doesn’t even average 12 points a game,” VanderWal said. “It’s almost kind of mind-boggling that we score as much as we do, and we have no big time scorers. I think we do, but we just share the ball so well, and we’re an unselfish group.”

When MC beat Otterbein, one of its top scorers Anthony Wallace (11.2 ppg) wasn’t even suited up. He was back in his dorm room sick.

Wallace, a 1,000-point-plus career scorer, is expected to be in the rotation against JCU.

Then, there’s senior point guard Keith Richardson, who has 964 career points.

An All-OAC honoree a couple of years ago, he only played 3-plus minutes late in the first half against Otterbein.

So, if you’re the Streaks, and you’re looking at film, who do you shut down? Dixon? Wallace? Jason Ellis (10.5 ppg)? Lukas Isaly (8.7), Caleb Hoyng (8.2), Richardson (7.9) and right on down the line?

John Carroll has its work cut out for itself.

But just maybe if JCU can take away Kreeger’s left-handed hook off the glass…hmmmm. No, I don’t even think that would help the Streaks.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, and can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com